Kansas Organization Gains International Attention

By: Phil White Email
By: Phil White Email

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

When many Kansans hear about the Kansas Leadership Center, they may think of the first new building to be constructed in several decades along downtown Wichita's Douglas Avenue.

However, the organization's mission is much deeper than that and it is a mission gaining worldwide attention.

"We help people develop their capacity to lead in their communities to solve tough problems in those communities," said Kansas Leadership Center President and CEO Ed O'Malley.

It is that mission -- an experiment in Kansas -- that had about 65 people from 12 states and 14 nations in Wichita this weekend.

A presentation by O'Malley at a Harvard leadership conference was such a hit, KLC was bombarded with requests from around the world for presentations.

"We finally decided, 'Look, we can't go all over the world. Our mission is in Kansas,'" O'Malley said. "But we thought we'd invite them here for a few days."

The weekend workshops were designed to explain just what the Kansas Leadership Center is all about.

" The Kansas Leadership Center is about building leadership for the common good," O'Malley explained. "The common good for Kansas to make Kansas a stronger, more successful and more prosperous, healthier place."

That's something those attending would like to see happen in their nations, states and communities. They want to learn how to best spur civic engagement.

"In my instance: Nigerian women. How they can be better advocates to the government," said Opeymi Abebe, a participant from Nigeria. "I'm learning that leadership is not a position, but it is a responsibility. It is an activity."

Those changed perceptions of leadership are aimed at instilling confidence in new leaders.

"You can make a difference as a leader as against just being in a position and thinking that it's just about you rather than it being for the people," Abebe said.

O'Malley pointed out, perhaps there is no better place than Kansas -- where people care about their communities and each other -- to learn about making the world a better place.

"It's affirming to see people from elsewhere coming here to learn about how we're doing this and how they might be able to replicate something similar in their country or community," he said.

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